INSITE programme begins at Heriot-Watt’s Orkney campus



Researchers at Heriot-Watt’s Orkney campus are launching their Connectivity of Hard Substrate Assemblages in the North Sea (CHASANS) project this week.

CHASANS is one of seven proposals funded in the second round of the NERC ‘Influence of Man-made Structures in the Ecosystem’ (INSITE) programme.

Dr Joanne Porter is the principal investigator and the rest of the Heriot-Watt team includes Dr Andrew Want, Dr Mike Bell and Dr David Woolf.

Partners include Hull University, National Oceanographic Centre, the Natural History Museum and Aberdeen University, the European Marine Energy Centre, Aquatera Ltd, Marine Scotland Science, Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the International Maritime Organisation.

CHASANS aims to enhance our understanding of the connectivity of populations of marine fauna colonising artificial substrates across the North Sea.

Dr Joanne Porter said “We are looking forward this week to kick-off this exciting programme of research from the International Centre of Island Technology, in Stromness.

“CHASANS will provide an invaluable evidence base for progressing decommissioning as part of the decarbonisation challenge, at a critical time for the planet.”

The Heriot-Watt team’s expertise in biofouling monitoring, oceanographic modelling and population genetics will be used to generate a multidisciplinary dataset to validate biologically realistic models of larval connectivity between sites in the North Sea.

These models will be used to predict how networks of hard substrate in the North Sea function in the dispersal and metapopulation structure of marine epifauna. One of the outputs of the research is a tool that will predict how the distribution of epifauna is affected when specific artificial platforms are removed or added to the network. Such information will help to provide environmental evidence to decisionmakers regarding whether artificial platforms should be removed or remain in place.

NERC has funded the project with £561,000 as part of the Influence of Man-made Structures in the Ecosystem (INSITE) research programme, which will address the critical knowledge gaps in the role manmade structures play in the North Sea ecosystem structure and function.


Sarah McDaid